The Captain sensed an uneasiness in the room. The two men in front of him were looking off to their right. They had strange expressions on their faces. Was it disgust? Was it fear? Was it an expression of embarrassment or shame? None of these emotions had been noticed by this Captain during several years of physical fitness training.
He was testing the new firefighters on the stairmaster. Every new firefighter goes through a physical fitness program. This also involves testing the probies in the number of push ups, sit ups, pull ups, and timing a mile and a half run. As an aside, all have their body fat recorded by a simple measuring of the size of the waist. This measurement is compared to a chart and the body fat is determined by this. It is a ball park figure. There is no body fat requirement for firefighting and people of all body compositions have been excellent firefighters.
In this make shift gym, there were 17 probies being tested. These 17 represented one squad of 2 platoons of 3 squads each. Also in the room was one Lieutenant and three firefighter instructors.
The Captain turned around to see what these men were looking at. The Captain was shocked at what he saw. A big man, probie, standing at stiff attention at the front of the room with his pants and underpants pulled down to his ankles. His fully exposed genitalia dangled in the faces of ten probies sitting on chairs five feet away.
The dangling man had his eyes focused forward, not looking at anything but with an expression of what I would describe as bewilderment, embarrassment, humiliation, disbelief that he was in this position. That he was going through this.
I noticed that the other men sitting in front of this naked man were squirming in their seats. Trying to look away. They were embarrassed. They knew that this was some kind of perversion and that they soon would be put on display like this. This was surreal. Could this really be happening? How did this happen?
A little confused and shocked at what was happening, the Captain asked the Lieutenant, who was responsible for this activity, “What are you doing?” The Lieutenant answered “I am measuring their body fat.” The Captain replied “You can’t do this”. The Lieutenant replied, “Fire Commissioner Tom Von Essen said I can do whatever I want.” The Captain was unprepared for such a remark. This activity forced upon subordinates or any one else was wrong. It was immoral. It was abusive and humiliating to people subjected to this abusive activity. It was also abusive and very uncomfortable for the other instructors in the room.
The Captain was stuck. No one should allow such activity. The Captain would have, under normal circumstances, stopped this activity, but the Fire Commissioner and Mayor Giuliani were involved. The Captain knew that Giuliani had created a cult of personality about himself. Giuliani selected his Commissioners based upon personal loyalty to Giuliani, and not the oath to obey the laws and rules of New York City and the State of New York. All civil servants take an oath to uphold the laws of the land when they are hired.
Commissioner Von Essen would eventually fire a Fire Marshal with 16 years of duty as a cop, firefighter and than a Fire Marshal. The Firing offense would be that this Fire Marshal, John O’Brien, did not have the tie, wrapped around his neck, tied. The Giuliani circle of friends imposed cruel punishment to those who would use their freedom of speech to voice their opinions. Freedom of speech does not protect NYC employees.
The Captain did not follow what he knew to be right. He did not stop this activity. He was afraid of losing his job after 19 years as a firefighter. He told the other instructors not to take part in this activity. In a low voice he apologized to the probies for this activity and said that this activity is “not right.”
The Lieutenant went back to what he wanted to do. Each man would come up to the front of the room. He was ordered to pull his pants and underpants all the way down to the floor. Half measures were not allowed.
The Lieutenant would get down to his knees in front of or to the side of these men. He would take a tape measure in one hand and put the tape around the naked buttocks. He would grab the tape with his other hand. He would adjust the tape tightly around their thighs, buttocks and pubic hair. He wanted a good measurement so he would pull the tape tight, crushing the man’s pubic hair. And with his face at the same height, the same proximity of the man’s genitalia, he would look at the tape and read the measurement. If he dropped the tape or the man was large, he would have to lean against the man. His face sometimes on the naked thigh, sometimes leaning against the penis. This the Captain did not see but others told him this happened.
These men would have to go through this at least one more time.
In December of 1996, this Captain overheard one probie say to another probie when talking about a second measurement “He wants to look at my penis again?” “What is wrong with that man?” And of course it did not matter what was wrong with this man. He was in the protected circle of Giuliani. He could do whatever he wanted.